Archive for Monday, June 22, 2015

Brownback wants more highway patrol officers

June 22, 2015

— With the Kansas Highway Patrol operating at its lowest staffing levels in a decade, Gov. Sam Brownback said he would like to increase the number of highway patrol troopers on the state's roads.

When asked what areas of state government he thought needed more funding, Brownback said there should be some focus on public safety, particularly the Highway Patrol.

"I want to get more highway patrolmen out on the road," the governor said last week. "Law enforcement across the country has been really challenged, I think, and they're having trouble hiring in a lot of places."

The patrol currently has 399 troopers, the lowest number since 2005 when it had 487, patrol spokesman Lt. Adam Winters told The Topeka Capital-Journal.

The low numbers mean the patrol has no troopers in 21 Kansas counties and another 34 counties have only one. A little more than a third of Kansas counties have two or more troopers, Winters said.

The low staffing has made it difficult for the patrol to cover state roadways, enforce traffic laws and provide assistance, particularly in rural areas, Winters said, which adds to problems for local police agencies.

"Police and sheriff's departments often rely on patrol personnel for their expertise in specialized fields," Winters said. "With less troopers, the services the agency provides these local jurisdictions have diminished."

Earlier this year, the Highway Patrol asked state lawmakers to allow public employees in the state's pension system to choose a new, deferred retirement option, as an incentive for retirement-eligible troopers to keep working. The concept, known as the Deferred Retirement Option Program, was added to a larger bill involving state employees who work after retirement. The DROP is a pilot program that will end in 2020 unless lawmakers extend it.


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